January 09, 2020
The veteran director stars as a black-clad horseman on a bizarre desert quest with worrying Mansonesque overtones in his rereleased head trip of 1970
El Topo review – Jodorowskys weird world of occult psychedelia
Now 90 and still a vigorously engaged public figure, the midnight-movie magus, comic-book artist and tarot enthusiast Alejandro Jodorowsky has become the touchstone for a certain kind of untamed cinema, the last survivor-practitioner of underground freaky radicalism, standing up to corporate blandness with his countercultural film-making. A remarkable late-flowering of creativity recently brought us his highly personal films The Dance of Reality (2013) and Endless Poetry (2016). Now we can see his 1970 breakthrough, El Topo (The Mole), which is on rerelease.
Influenced by Sergio Leone, Tod Browning, Luis Buñuel and (worryingly) Charles Manson, it’s a bizarre head-trip festival of occult psychedelia, heatstroke visuals, Age-of-Aquarius nude dancing and violence through poster-paint fake blood splattered about the place. After seeing El Topo in 1970, Jodorowsky superfan John Lennon famously promoted and yet also stymied this film-maker’s career, encouraging his manager Allen Klein to invest in Jodorowsky’s future productions, an involvement that bogged the director down in legal and commercial wrangling and did much to cause the effective disappearance, which fed into his mythic reputation.
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